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New Mexico Senate Committee Approves Gila River Bill


  Santa Fe, NM – After lengthy debate, the Senate Conservation Committee voted to pass the committee substitute for SB455 and SB542 out of the Conservation Committee. The bills will go to the Senate Judiciary Committee next.  The committee substitute combined the two transparency bills originally introduced by Sen. Sander Rue and Sen. Joseph Cervantes to require the Interstate Stream Commission to disclose basic facts about the proposed Gila River diversion and establish requirements for a transparent public process.

Witnesses at the hearing included water expert Norm Gaume, the former head of the Interstate Stream Commission appointed by Republican governor Gary Johnson.  Mr. Gaume testified that, “The ISC has spent or authorized nine million dollars on its consultants, while hiding answers to the basic questions of feasibility. New Mexico taxpayers deserve honesty and basic accountability from their state government.”

The proposed Gila River diversion has been mired in controversy and uncertainty as lawsuits over Open Meetings Act violations and protests and vocal opposition from sportsmen and conservation groups.

Recently, allegations of potential conflicts of interest for newly Governor-appointed ISC Director, Deborah Dixon, have further fueled mistrust of the ISC’s objectivity.

“I am so glad that the ISC’s Gila diversion planning process is finally getting the scrutiny it deserves,” said Allyson Siwik of the Gila Conservation Coalition. “We still need answers to critical questions about how the project will be funded, how much water is available, and who the end user will be before moving forward.”

“The Senate Conservation Committee stood up for New Mexico taxpayers today,” said Sara Boyett from Audubon’s Western Rivers Action Network and the Southwestern New Mexico Audubon Society. “Only legislative oversight will prevent further waste of taxpayer money.”